Professional Development Meme 2009

I was reading about the meme on Louise Maine’s blog and thought it sounded like a good one, and low and behold she had tagged me.  Well here goes!


Summer can be a great time for professional development. It is an opportunity to learn more about a topic, read a particular work or the works of a particular author, beef up an existing unit of instruction, advance one’s technical skills, work on that advanced degree or certification, pick up a new hobby, and finish many of the other items on our ever-growing To Do Lists. Let’s make Summer 2009 a time when we actually get to accomplish a few of those things and enjoy the thrill of marking them off our lists.

The Rules

  1. Pick 1-3 professional development goals and commit to achieving them this summer.
  2. For the purposes of this activity the end of summer will be Labor Day (09/07/09).
  3. Post the above directions along with your 1-3 goals on your blog.
  4. Title your post Professional Development Meme 2009 and link back/trackback to
  5. Use the following tag/ keyword/ category on your post: pdmeme09.
  6. Tag 5-8 others to participate in the meme.
  7. Achieve your goals and “develop professionally.”
  8. Commit to sharing your results on your blog during early or mid-September.

My Professional Development Goals

  1. Read ‘Disrupting Class; How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns’
  2. Learn more about teaching using Moodle (my district is switching to Moodle in the fall and I will be responsible for teaching at least 4 courses using this Learning Management System)
  3. Prepare for the two professional development sessions I will be facilitating at the end of the summer

I’m really looking forward to summer break not only to accomplish the goals above, but more importantly to decompress and enjoy time with friends and family.

Now, I’m going to break rule #6 and not explicitly tag anyone.  If you are reading this, first off thanks!  Secondly, if you haven’t been tagged already and think you’d like to participate, then consider yourself tagged 😉

    Quick Reflections on VSS 2009

    Though the title says quick reflections, I’ve been reflecting on the Virtual School Society Annual Spring Conference since the first round of sessions kicked off.  The VSS and the pre-conference are an opportunity for people involved in distributed learning (DL) and educators who use digital technology in education to get together and share what they’ve been up to.  Briefly, here are some of my take aways:

    Mast reflections by DonGato CC Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative works.

    • Tying in with Michael Horn’s keynote, DisruptingClass: How Disruptive Innovation is Changing the Way the World Learns, web 2.0 tools and the young field of DL are part of the current disruptive innovation.  Horn says that to be successful, disruptive innovations must be allowed to be separate from the status quo and not judged by the current/old norms.  My take–Don’t force your DL program to be like the regular school program; let your DL teachers and admin experiment and innovate–they have the potential to help many of those kids whose needs are not currently being met in schools.
    • DL schools don’t necessarily fit with the rest of the school system
    • there is as shift to teaching mastery: a DL environment is the perfect place for this
    • More educators are finding that tools like Elluminate Live! can be very powerful, especially with math instruction and tutoring.  (**A Province-wide license means that Elluminate Live! is free to use for all BC educators–go here to find out more)
    • A surprising small number of DL educators are on Twitter, but perhaps more will be after Ellen Wagner’s keynote 🙂
    • A surprising number of delegates have not yet dipped their toes in the web 2.0 waters
    • There is a shift away from the tools to the pedagogy of teaching and learning in a DL environment
    • No two DL schools are alike–some offer only synchronous programs, some offer asynchronous and continuous enrollment, some are 12 month operations, some are big, some are small, some offer special ed, some don’t…
    • More people are willing to share their stuff; not just their ideas, but the things they have created.

    My last point is BIG.  Two years ago when I went to the predecessor of the VSS conference, the BC Ed Online, the mood was one of competition.  We were all competing for the same pool of DL students.  Talk was of how to protect what we’ve created, not how to share.   I’m glad for the change in perspective.

    My brain will be mulling over the VSS sessions and discussions for quite a while to come and this post was a chance for me to finally put down my thoughts.  The conference will inform the direction my school takes over the next little while, and that is pretty exciting.

    The Last Words
    My questions for you are, (1) have you noticed a shift towards sharing?  I mean, it’s so gosh darned easy now to share what you have created in the digital world, shouldn’t we all be sharing?  Doesn’t that give more value to what you’ve spent time creating?  (2) Are you starting to notice a shift away from the tools and towards best practices in this increasingly digital world?

    As always, thanks for reading!

    The Power of Observation

    One of the best things about my teaching practicum, oh those many years ago, was the chance to sit in and observe other teachers in their classrooms.  Everyone has a different teaching style and there is always something to take away and make your own.  Since my practicum days I have taken the opportunity a few times to sit in on colleagues’ classes, but never as often as I would have liked.

    student teacher by peiqianlong
    Attribution License

    Blogs, Twitter, and social networks are making it easier to network with and learn from other educators, but for the most part they don’t allow for actual observation.  Lately, however, I’ve been able to get in some virtual classroom observations and it’s been great!  This past year I’ve taken a number of week long on-line professional development classes through KnowSchools.  In addition, I’ve been training to be an assistant facilitator for KnowSchools which has allowed me an inside peek as to how the different facilitators organize and run their week long classes.  The classes are done using Moodle and it has been fascinating to see how the different facilitators make use of the different features in Moodle.  So I’m learning about some great ways to improve my teaching practice and I’m getting to observe talented educators and how they teach.

    I’ve also participated in some virtual PD offered in Elluminate Live from a variety of sources; today I popped in (briefly) to Classroom 2.0’s weekly show.  I use Elluminate Live with my distributed learning students so whenever I’m in a session that someone else is moderating I’m looking for good ideas that I can steal!  It’s also good to experience an Elluminate Live session as a participant.  It reminds me that it is boring just to sit and listen to the moderator; I need to give my students an active way to participate and discuss ideas and I need to engage them with good visuals.

    Do you take the opportunity to observe your colleagues as they teach?  If so, how do you make time to do this?  Do you prefer live and in person, or virtual observations?  I’d love to hear from you 🙂

    The DL DeLemma

    In February Ken Allen wrote a great post, Champion Elearning Myths, that’s been rattling around in my brain for the past month.  He raised a number of points that are relevant to me as I teach at a distributed learning (DL) school in British Columbia (in other jurisdictions it is often referred to as distance learning). 

    Student – Studying by m00by CC attribution, no derivative works.

    There have been a lot of changes to distributed learning in the past 5 years which have resulted in more students, especially in grades 10 and up, enrolling in DL schools.  There are a myriad of reasons that students have for choosing a DL school.  Lately at my school we are seeing more and more students enrolling who have learning challenges and/or do not have the organizational skills to successfully work through the courses we offer.  With many of these students they have agreed to come in and work at the school for 2 or more days of the week to receive support from their teachers and certified educational assistant (teachers assistant).  This is helping the students to be more successful, but I don’t think it is enough; they still need more support. 

    This leads me to wonder, when does a DL school stop being a DL school?  I mean, if we really want these kids to be successful, maybe we should say that they need to come into the school 4 days a week?  It seems that the system needs another option.  The students that I am concerned about are not being successful at the regular schools, but they also don’t ‘fit’ at the alternative programs.  They are in between and so are choosing the DL option.  The problem is that most successful DL students need to be organized, motivated, and have strong support at home.  That is not the case for most of these kids.  Heck, a DL program is challenging for the ‘ideal’ student. 

    I guess I need to step back and ask, are these kids being more successful with us than they were in their regular school?  If so, is that enough?  I don’t know; I still think they deserve more. 

    What do you think?  How can we help these kids who fall through the cracks? 
       Technorati Tags: ,

    Attack of the Body Snatchers

    This week at my friend’s school: a girl Googles her friend’s name and finds a blog, apparently written by the friend, which discusses all sorts of personal issues that really ought not to be on-line for all to read.  When the friend is shown the site by the principal she claims that she is not the author; that someone created the blog and is impersonating her.  After a request from the school the site content is quickly removed by the blog host.

    I see two scenarios here, both disturbing.

    A)  Someone is impersonating the girl.  This would be very easy to do, though a bit time consuming.  What if someone was impersonating you by creating ‘your’ blog?  What damaging content could they post?  How could you prove that you were not the author of the blog?  Would it even be possible to determine who was the real author?  All I can say is I’m going to keep that Google Alert for my name; though I should figure out how to filter it so that I don’t keep getting hits for Claire Thompson the S and M novelist.

    B)  No one is impersonating the girl.  She just showed a real lack of knowledge thinking that she could treat her blog, with her name on it, like a personal diary; full of intimate details that only she could read.  This is a dangerous lack of knowledge.  We have to do a better job of educating our kids about the internet.  In my day teens could make mistakes, sometimes pretty big ones, but they didn’t do it on-line, for the whole world to see, forever…    

    Each day more and more kids have easy unfettered access to the internet via cell phones, the iPod touch, and whatever those new gameboy thingy’s are called.  No longer can we rely on just keeping the family computer in the kitchen (though that’s still a good idea) or on having programs like Net Nanny or Agent Bob (a program my husband developed) on the aforementioned family computer. We’ve got to give the kids the skills to make good decisions on-line.

    Vendo iPod touch 16 GB by juanpol

    Are you aware of these sorts of issues occuring with your students?  Does your school address digital citizenship/literacy in an adequate way or is it just a piecemeal process?
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    Using A Blog Editor

    Using a Blog Editor

    This week I’ve been participating in a KnowWeeks course called ‘Browserless Blogging ‘ with Grant Potter.  One of our tasks has been to try out a desk top blog editor.  I think that this just means using something other than your blog’s own editor that can post directly to your blog.  So writing your post in Word and cutting and pasting it to your blog’s editor doesn’t count.  And if you’ve read Sue Waters’ post on this you’ll know that that is a bad idea anyway.

    As I was going through the list of options there was one that I had tried; Flock’s blog editor.  I wasn’t crazy about it as it lost all of the formatting when it uploaded to edublogs; though maybe I needed to tweek some settings.

    Anyway, as I was going through the list and trying to decide which other blog editor I’d like to try, it occured to me that Google Docs has a ‘post to blog’ feature.  I like writing my posts in Google Docs, because that it where I do most of my writing.  When I went to check out the ‘post to blog’ feature today I realized that when I tried in the past, I hadn’t been able to get the setting right.  When I looked at it today I realized that the blog URL I had put in was in the wrong format.  Another post by Sue Waters helped me to figure it out.  To post from Google Docs to Edublogs you use the following URL:

    So this is my test of posting from Google Docs.  I know it won’t add tags or categories, but I’m gonna give it a whirl.  Where do you post your blogs from?

    Blog (detall) [sic] by Lady Madonna Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

    Sharing a Little Cheer

    Right now I have over 200 unread posts in my blog reader; I definitely have to do some pruning.  There are some writers who’s posts I read as soon as I can; I’ve blogged about them here.  Lately there are two other bloggers who have percolated to the top of my faves list.  They often bring a smile to my face, which is a nice relief in February (*note: February is probably a Northern Hemisphere affliction).

    The Principal’s Blog

    This blogger cracks me up.  As the cop on the Simpson’s says, what he writes “is funny, because it’s true”.  His posts can also be poignant (see this post for example: read to the end where the Principal’s Page’s wife leaves a note).  Up until recently all of The Principal’s Page post titles were in caps.  Many of his paragraphs are one sentence long.  He refers to his posts as blogs, which I find endearing.  I don’t know who he is, but his “blogs” have cheered up some bleak days.

    Not Too Late To Change The Name

    This is the other ‘must read’ blog in my reader right now and is  by Jen.  Jen teaches at a ghetto middle school (her words, not mine) in LA.  This is her second year of teaching, but I think this is her second career.  Her job sounds really challenging and I frankly don’t know how she does it.  Her language is colourful at times, but she writes with humour and compassion.  She sometimes writes short bittersweet posts like this one, and then ones like this one that make me realize that my troubles are pretty small in the big scheme of things.  She also writes hopeful posts like this one.  One quirk about Jen’s posts are that they never have titles.

    Freedom in Anonymity?

    Both Principal’s Page and Jen write anonomously, which may be why their posts are so enjoyable; they can say what they want to without professional repercussions.  That is not to say that they slag people, because they don’t.  They can just be a little more candid than some of us are willing to be when our names are attached to our blogs.

    Who Makes You Smile?

    I’ve shared a couple of my favourite, put a smile on your face, bloggers.  Do you have a few gems to share?  What do you think about blogs published anonymously; are you pro, con, “it depends”, or other?  I’d love to hear what you think 🙂

    Just Some Hoops to Jump Through

    It was Thursday and some of the high school students were at the school to do some work (I work at a Distributed Learning / Distance Learning school, so usually the kids are at home).  One of the grade 10s was working on a course she was just starting; ‘Family Studies 11’.  This kid is pretty bright and does well in our program.

    Me: “So does Family Studies look interesting?”
    Her: “Yes.  Mr. X said it was easy so that’s why I took it.”

    Superdog by skycaptaintwo
    Attribution License

    Yup.  Just another hoop.  Made me think of the ‘Guitar Hero’ part of this post by Dan Myers.  It also made me think of the really bright, top of the district, student I taught a few years ago who switched from Chemistry 12 to Geography 12 a third of the way through because she knew she could get through Geography more easily.  Not because she liked Geography better.  I know this because she told me as much.

    I don’t get it.  When I was in high school I probably could have taken a study block, but that never occurred to me; I was having a hard time trying to narrow down the classes that I wanted to take.  I took Drawing and Painting 12 because I liked, well, drawing and painting.  Not because I thought it might be easy.  In fact I had very little artistic talent and taking the course probably put me in danger of lowering my GPA.  I took Drafting 11 and 12, again, not because I thought they might be easy courses, but because I was interested in them.  Same with Choir, Chemistry, Biology, and Physics.

    So when I see kids taking “easy credits”, or study blocks, or gunning through their academic courses so they can graduate 6 months or a year early;  I.  Just.  Don’t.  Get.  It.

    I don’t want to lay all the blame on these kids, though.  It’s human nature to do the easy thing, to keep doing those things that make you feel successful.  Have you seen how most people use flashcards to study–they spend most of their time on the cards that they already understand, and not the cards they need to understand.  Failure feels uncomfortable, so we often stick with what we already know.

    The system is also to blame.  We often focus on “these are the courses you need to graduate”, “this is the minimum number of credits you need”, instead of “we have some wonderful courses that you’re really going to enjoy, learn a lot from, and serve you well in the future”.  Maybe we need more inspiring courses.

    I don’t know.  What do you think?

    Re-discovering Books

    Or the Silver Lining of Being Sick

    So far 2009 has been a bit of a bust for me as I have been sick for the entire time with a variety of non-life-threatening ailments.  The plus side is that I have been able to read some books!  Back in the spring I bought Daniel Pink’s ‘A Whole New Mind’ and only made it about 40 pages in.  Well I got a chance to read it and I have to say that I really enjoyed it.  Then, on one of my forays out of the house to procure tinctures etc, I picked up Malcom Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’ and devoured it quickly.  Another great read that has me analyzing my own personal success and wondering what factors will impact the success my children will experience as they grow up. Both Pink and Gladwell do a wonderful job of weaving stories of individuals to make their respective points.

    Different Types of Reading

    Now I find myself wishing I had some more unread books on hand to read.  There is something really satisfying about books that I’m not getting from reading blog posts.  I enjoy reading posts and engaging in conversations in the comments, but books really feed my soul.  I guess I need to have a balanced diet when it comes to reading.  I’ve also got to make sure that I’m not so busy that I don’t have time for books.  A problem that I have with books is that I feel compelled to finish them; I have difficulty just reading a chapter and putting the book down for a day or two.  Reading a book in just a few sittings is not a good strategy if you have a job and a husband and two little kids to look after 😉

    Now on My List

    Since tweeting about reading these two books it’s been recommended that I read ‘The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives’ by Leonard Mlodinow and  ‘The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything’ by Ken Robinson.  So I’m on a quest to get these books; so far my local book sellers and library are not helping me out.

    Any Recommendations?  What’s on Your List of Books to Read?

    What books have you enjoyed lately?  What book(s) are you pining to read?

    Tools and Sites I Use–One Year Later


    tools by tashland

    Last January I decided to write a post on the tools and sites that I was using on a regular basis.  I thought it would be interesting to do another list this year and see what changes, if any, there are.  The tools that I use daily have a star next to them, all the other tools I use at least on a weekly basis.  In no particular order they are:

    • Twitter* (microblogging tool)
    • TwitterFox* (Twitter client)
    • iGoogle* (customizable homepage with different feeds–I have Google Reader, calendar, Gmail, news, weather etc)
    • Google Docs*
    • Google Reader*
    • Google Calendar*
    • Edublogs
    • GMail*
    • Firefox* (web browser)
    • Flock (Firefox based web browser)
    • Delicious* (social bookmarking site)
    • Google Chat
    • Skype
    • MS Outlook (only because it is the mail program at work)
    • MS Word (for work documents)
    • iPhoto
    • Flickr
    • coComment*
    • co.mments
    • Blogger
    • Facebook (once I started using Flock I found I used Facebook more because of its built in Facebook client)
    • WetPaint
    • Wikispaces
    • YouTube
    • Google Search*
    • Elluminate Live
    • Wikipedia
    • WebCT/Blackboard
    • MS FrontPage (for work)

    No doubt I’ve missed a few tools.  Compared to last year’s list I’ve noticed the following:

    • Twitter is now on my list.
    • This year’s list is way longer; 29 entries as opposed to 13, with 19 brand new entries.
    • 3 entries from last year didn’t make this year’s list: Google Notebook, Moodle, and Google Video.  Since I started using Delicious I found that I dropped Google Notebook.  I still use Notebook occasionally, but definitely not on a weekly basis.  Moodle was on my list last year because I was part of a pilot project with Open School BC using Moodle for some of our courses.  The pilot project ended in June ’08 and so too my moodling.  My colleague and I are going to lobby the powers that be to allow us to use the Moodle server that they already have up and running, but just for in house use (ie not for students to access via the web).  Google Video, just kinda faded out for me.  Not sure why.
    • Wikipedia was the only wiki on my list last year.

    So, I’ve done a lot more exploring and added a bunch more tools and sites to my toolbelt.  But hey, they’re still just tools.  I could have five great hammers, but if I never used them, or had no skill with them, then so what.  It’s not the tools per say, it’s what you do with them.

    Are you gobsmacked that one of your fave tools is not on my list?  Curious about a tool that I’ve mentioned?  Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!